Provisional Legislative Council
Welfare Services Panel
Meeting on 18 February 1998

Follow-up on Employment Situation of Fresh Social Work Graduates in 1997


This paper updates Members on the employment situation of social work graduates in 1997 and sets out the Administration's response to the concerns raised by the Social Work Graduates Employment Concern Group (the Concern Group) in their submission to the Panel in January 1998.


2. Following discussions at the Panel meeting on 12 December 1997, the Administration provided an information note on 14 January 1998 on the employment situation of the social work graduates as at 6 January 1998. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) has held discussions with the Concern Group to better understand their employment situation and maintained close liaison with the Group to seek their assistance in encouraging more students to respond to the questionnaires.

Updated Employment Situation of Social Work Graduates

3. According to statistics obtained from the tertiary institutions, there were 367 and 534 full time social work degree and diploma graduates in 1997 respectively. As at 9 February 1998, SWD has received 255 and 335 completed questionnaires from social work degree and diploma graduates. Compared with the findings as at 6 January 1998, the response rates have risen from 56% and 52% to 69% and 63% respectively. On the basis of the available information, 83% of the degree graduates and 80% of diploma graduates have already secured employment.

4. Of the 90 degree graduates who have secured social work posts by early February this year, 78 have joined the Assistant Social Work Officer (ASWO) grade and 12 have entered the Social Work Assistant (SWA) grade. As regards diploma graduates, 164 have taken up SWA posts.

5. We would like to point out that there are many factors which affect employment, such as whether students wish to pursue their studies and whether they voluntarily opt for a career other than social work. Experience suggests that this may be for a variety of personal reasons.

Response to the Concern Group's Submission

Mechanism for calculating the creation of new posts for 1997/98

6. Under the Social Welfare Manpower Planning System, the new demand for social workers is the sum total of the net additional staff requirement plus replacement for wastage. The net additional staff requirement comprises new posts to be created in SWD, the subvented and non-subvented sectors as well as those in tertiary institutions.

7. According to the latest information gathered from SWD and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the department and the subvented sector have successfully recruited 28 social workers (7 ASWO and 21 SWA grade) to fill newly created posts in the months of December 1997 and January 1998.

8. As at 15 December 1997, it was estimated that an additional 186 social work posts (78 ASWO and 108 SWA grade posts as reported on 14 January 1998) would become available in SWD and the subvented sector before the end of March 1998. Of these, 84 are new posts to be created between December 1997 and March 1998 (40 ASWO and 44 SWA grade), 76 are vacant posts (30 ASWO and 46 SWA grade) and 26 posts to be available from known wastage (8 ASWO and 18 SWA grade). The 84 new posts to be created have been included in the projected additional staff requirement of 340 posts (126 ASWO and 214 SWA grade) for 1997/98 as set out in Report No. 9. The figures on vacancies and known wastage should be counted as replacement for wastage in working out the projected new demand.

To expedite creation of earmarked posts

9. As we have indicated in our earlier paper to Members, we will endeavour to expedite the creation of social work posts in the new financial year (1998/99). In the coming year, 318 new posts (133 ASWO and 185 SWA grade posts) will be created. NGOs will be able to make early arrangements for recruitment of staff to fill the available posts. In the first quarter of 1998/99, we intend to provide an additional 97 social work posts (49 ASWO and 48 SWA grade) in SWD and the subvented sector. This represents over 30% of the posts to be created in 1998/99. Inevitably, there will be new vacancies arising which will need to be filled in this quarter. Together with the additional posts available in the first three months of 1998, this will provide more employment opportunities for the fresh social work graduates.

10. The estimates of SWD and the subvented sector are prepared on the basis of planned projects with secured funding. Report No. 9 projected that the number of new posts to be created in SWD (not including subvented NGOs) in 1997/98 was 36. The department is able to match the estimated demand and provide altogether 61 new social work posts this year.

To give priority to the recruitment of fresh graduates

11. We are aware of the feedback that the employment difficulties faced by fresh social work graduates tend to be more acute than those with relevant work experience. We consider it helpful therefore to encourage the potential employers to consider according some priority to the employment of fresh graduates.

To conduct employment surveys on a regular basis

12. SWD will continue to enlist the assistance of the relevant tertiary institutions in conducting an annual survey on the graduates’ employment situation and their intention to join the profession. The co-operation and active participation of the graduates is particularly important in enhancing the accuracy of such surveys for future planning purposes.

Social Welfare Manpower Planning System

13. As we have earlier explained to Members, the manpower projection exercise is affected by a number of variables. In recent years, we have adopted a population/service growth approach to improve the accuracy of manpower projections starting with Report No. 8. In that regard, the estimated number of net additional staff required for the first two years is based on planned and funded projects whereas projections for later years are estimated on the basis of the population/service growth approach. For population-based services (e.g. children and youth services), growth in manpower demand is estimated according to the growth rate of the target population; while for those which do not have a population standard (e.g. rehabilitation and probation services), demand is computed on the basis of the average growth of the service over the past six years. Projections on the supply and demand for, social workers are updated every year taking account of information collected from SWD, organisations employing social workers and the tertiary institutions.

14. The manpower projection exercise involves many variables, some of which can have a substantial impact on the outturn of the figures. These include factors such as wastage, non-entry rates and the variance between the funds available for approved projects and projected demand based simply on population growth. The difference in the projected demand for 1997/98 as set out in Reports No. 8 and 9 can be accounted for by the above factors. We will nevertheless continue to examine ways of improving the current methodology, particularly, with the assistance of the Advisory Committee on Social Work Training and Manpower Planning.

Social welfare development and spending

15. We should also point out that the Government is committed to promoting welfare development and, has, in the past few years, continued to increase the resources allocated to the welfare sector. This year, we are spending some $20.6 billion, in terms of recurrent funding, on welfare services which represents growth in real terms of 15% compared with the previous year. Next year, expenditure is estimated to rise to $24.9 billion, representing real growth of over 13%. In terms of spending on direct services, the amount has increased from $3 billion in 1993/94 to $6.2 billion in 1997/98, representing continuous growth over the past few years. It has been the pledge and aim of the Government to serve the community with quality welfare services. We will continue to bid for additional resources to meet our commitments by providing the best possible services to the vulnerable and needy.

Health and Welfare Bureau/
Social Welfare Department
February 1998